The Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Thursday, May. 19, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

We are right in the middle of the month of May and this past Sunday we celebrated the great Feast of Pentecost, so what better time to say something about the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit?

The Blessed Mother’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is powerful and unique.

This is made very clear by some of the most pivotal moments in Scripture and in all of human history.

In the first place, we know that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Our Lady when Jesus was conceived.

Second, we know that Mary stood at the foot of the Cross when the Holy Spirit was released from the wounded hand of the crucified Jesus, as the first fruits of His death and the Resurrection.

And then, of course, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the Apostles.

These three instances indicate the profound bond between the Holy Spirit and Mary. Whenever the Holy Spirit is central in those moments which are pivotal for all of creation, Mary’s presence is essential.

That’s very, very interesting and appropriate. Her presence is essential because she embodies the “yes” of all humanity to the work of God.

Why is Mary present?

We know that Mary was not present at every moment of Christ’s ministry, and we know, for instance, that Mary did not have to be present at the Last Supper. But she was present at Pentecost. And she was at Pentecost because she had to be.

Why did Mary have to be present?

Because, just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary at the moment the Word was made flesh at the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost, as birth was given to Christ’s Body, the Church.

Just as Mary had been overshadowed at the conception of Christ, and Jesus came into the world, now the body of Jesus, His Church, is coming into the world.

Mary is the Mother of the Church; but so too Mary is the model of the Church. So the Church at Pentecost, through Mary’s presence, is endowed with her femininity, if you will.

The whole relationship (through His Holy Spirit) between Christ, the bridegroom and His Church, the bride, is celebrated. Pentecost can be seen as a nuptial celebration of Christ’s marriage to the Church through His Holy Spirit. As it were, the Holy Spirit officiates at that ceremony where Christ the bridegroom marries His bride.

It is a beautiful and mysterious reality -- Mary is both Mother of the Church and perfect model of the Church; the Church is both the bride of Christ and Christ’s body.

‘A useful dose of reality’

These mysteries are something in and of themselves, but I’d like to offer that these mysteries can, in fact, provide a useful dose of reality for the confusion of our times.

In the Creation account, we hear that God made humanity male and female, man and woman. His decision to create humankind in this way was not only for the sake of the propagation of the species, but for the goodness of their complementarity and unity.

Man and woman were made unique, but complementary, each with their particular roles, strengths, and weaknesses.

Of course, we know how this first relationship plays itself out, and we know that the decision of those first parents impacts all of humanity.

The choice of Adam and Eve not to maintain a right relationship with God affects their ability to maintain a right relationship with one another and with all of creation.

We suffer the disordering consequences of their choice to this day -- including the very fundamental questions, so evident today, as to humanity’s being created male and female.

To the confusion over biological sexual differences and gender, God has spoken, not only by way of His creation, but also through the image of perfection of masculinity and femininity given by His Son and the Blessed Mother.

Of course we see the perfection of masculinity provided by Jesus -- which is imaged by a fruitfulness which flows from selfless self-gift.

Jesus provides a perfect model for men by laying down his life in sacrificial love. From His complete gift of self, He is wedded to His bride, the Church, which then flourishes insofar as she remains tied to Him.

Mary: model for femininity

God also provides us with a model for femininity, and her virginity removes a primary emphasis on any sexual act. The most perfect image of the feminine is in Mary and her selfless “yes” to God, and to her strong and faithful devotion to doing His will.

She makes the will of God the purpose of her life and her service is lived out in a complementary, but yet very distinct, way from that of Jesus.

These are not popular models for masculinity and femininity.

In the mind of the world, it is complete foolishness for a man to choose to give up his whole life and to lay it down in service to his bride -- seeking to love unto the point of death.

And in the mind of the world, it is absolute foolishness for a woman to choose to devote her entire being to loving by the means of doing the will of God and standing strongly and faithfully “by her man”.

Yet, this is precisely the image that Jesus and Mary provide to all of humanity, for the sake of our happiness. This image gives rise to the vocations of priestly service and to the Consecrated Religious Life, no doubt.

But, the laying down of one’s life for the other, is also the call which is given to those who are called to married life.

The perfect images

Now, I do not take lightly the profound psychological distress experienced by our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the midst of “gender confusion”-- just as I do not take lightly the distress of those who find themselves attracted to members of the same-sex.

All of us are called to respect and to love these, our brothers and sisters (who in many cases are sons and daughters, friends and co-workers).

However, our respect and love demand that we continue to provide the most basic of principles through which their happiness can be found. We must stop adding to the tortuous confusion of such children of God. Pretending that God does not have a plan for them would be to cheat them from their deepest joy and peace -- in this life or the next.

For this reason, I think it’s especially timely for us to look to Christ and to Mary as the perfect images of masculinity and femininity and to look at Christ and His Church as the perfect image for marriage, husband to wife.

The perfect marriage is the marriage of Christ to His Church -- the bridegroom to the bride. How could one possibly think that marriage could mean something else?

No one who is a disciple of Jesus Christ could ever claim that marriage is something else, otherwise they don’t understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I know that there are a good number of people (even a good number of well-meaning Catholics) who are confused on this matter. But if they entered into the mystery of Mary’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and to the Church, she would teach them.

Talk to the Blessed Mother about this; let Mary explain some things to you about the Holy Spirit. Let her explain some things to you about Christ the bridegroom and His bride, the Church. We don’t call her the “Seat of Wisdom” for nothing!

Let Mary speak to you. She is indeed the Seat of Wisdom; she held the highest degree of the most important knowledge of which any human being could ever be capable. And how we got into this mess of gender and sex is largely an outcome of our misunderstanding and neglect of Mary’s role in the Church.

Answers found with Mary

The issues we face as a society are quite serious and fundamental. As such, we should never doubt for a minute, nor be surprised, that the answer to these difficulties are to be found in and through the Seat of Wisdom, who leads us to perfect wisdom Himself -- Jesus Christ.

So let your days of Marian prayer at this time of Pentecost be very full. And let us never worry about devotion to Mary distracting us from Christ and the Gospel message, when in fact she is always reminding us, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

See the depth that is possible there and drink profoundly of that depth, because the Church (liturgically) is telling you that’s what to do. Especially this year, when Pentecost and May, the month of Mary, coincide.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Praised be Jesus Christ!